Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI), which recently signed a $5.6M agreement with Lockheed Martin to further develop its metaSOLAR product, looks to enter the solar power market by providing advanced photovoltaic technology to the aerospace and defense industry. According to George Palikaras, Founder and CEO of MTI, "metaSOLAR will be ideal for harvesting energy in the transportation industry beyond aviation."
The metaSOLAR technology incorporates MTI’s existing “NanoWeb” material—a transparent conductor made of a nanostructured thin metal layer of continuous lightweight wire mesh. The mesh lines are sub-micron and invisible to the naked eye, resulting in a material that is highly conductive; can operate using very little power; and remains clear, transparent, and suitable for flight.
According to MTI, NanoWeb can be fabricated onto any glass or plastic surface, using almost any type of metal, including silver, aluminum, platinum, copper, and nickel.
MTI works with smart materials and photonics and specializes in metamaterial research, nanofabrication, and computational electromagnetics. The company has developed a new class of optical smart materials that focuses on interaction with light. Its patented solar technology has been engineered to collect, trap, and absorb solar light from all directions at wide angles, significantly improving efficiency, removing the need to track the sun.
“Metamaterials are in essence the materials of the future. MTI is pioneering large scale affordable nanofabrication technology that can push the boundaries for crystalline silicon solar efficiency and create very thin form factors for solar cells,” says Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology.
The metaSOLAR material will be applied using MTI’s patented Rolling Mask Lithography (RML) nano-fabrication process. The RML method employs a parallel patterning scheme easily scalable to large areas of rigid substrate materials (plates and panels) and rolls of flexible films. It combines the advantages of soft lithography and near-field optical lithography, and has proven to reliably fabricate nano-structures beyond the diffraction limit.
This process allows MTI to produce smart materials made from a variety of substrates such as glass, metal semiconductors, and polymer films—and enables the manipulation of light, such as blocking, absorbing, or enhancing. RML uses near-field phase shift photolithography which can be implemented as a continuous, seamless, and scalable manufacturing process. Its versatility is advancing MTI’s smart material research and helping to produce new metamaterial solutions that span from medical imaging systems to satellites orbiting the Earth.
In order to alter how light interacts with metamaterials, MTI engineers a patterned nano-structure that is modelled, optimized, and then transferred onto a soft cylindrical photomask. The RML uses the mask to pattern photosensitive materials deposited on a surface. Then the pattern is used as an etch mask for subsequent etching a substrate (glass, semiconductor), or as template for nano-structuring metals or other functional materials. In order to create a desired pattern on the surface, the RML equipment uses ultraviolet (UV) illumination as the mask rolls across the photosensitive film.
In its continued development of metaSOLAR, MTI has signed an Investment Framework Agreement under Canada’s Defence Procurement Strategy (DPS) Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) policy with Lockheed Martin.
The ITB policy, announced in February 2014, requires successful suppliers to invest in Canada an amount equal to the defense contract that they have won. Lockheed Martin is making these investments as part of its ITB obligations for the in-service support of the C-130J. This marks Lockheed Martin’s first solar technology investment in Canada.